I've been invited to a potluck/birthday party. I know I should bring a dish to share but since it's also a birthday party, should I also bring a gift for the birthday girl?
Dear Gift Guessing,
In most cases, a potluck is inherently casual and the dish you bring IS your gift. Think about it like this: if you're invited over to someone's home for dinner, you'd probably pick up a little hostess gift —a bottle of wine or some flowers —to say thanks in advance. If you're going to potluck however, you're ALL throwing the dinner party so you wouldn't feel the need to bring anything extra.
If the hostess has chosen to have a potluck as her party, I'd say it's a safe bet that she's not really looking to clean up, gifts-wise. From your question, it doesn't sound like you know the birthday girl very well, so simply bringing something to contribute to the party should be just fine. Maybe choose one of your special recipes or fancy up your presentation a little to acknowledge the special nature of this particular potluck.
If you do happen to be close with the hostess and you want to also give her a gift, I'd say save it for a time when it's just the two of you so as not to embarrass the other potluck partiers who most likely won't bring anything extra.